Editorial: Asking the Awkward Questions, Thirty Volumes Later
Well, we’re back. The eager first years are all trying to find their way around campus, everyone is confused about their module registration, and half of UCD got trashed in town on Black Monday. And the Tribune has against the ever mounting odds not been kicked off campus for another year. This is our thirtieth volume of the paper in UCD.
Set up in 1989 at the suggestion of Vincent Browne, who then let the first editors use the printing presses in his paper the Sunday Tribune. We somehow managed to take over a sizeable office in the basement of the Newman building and have dug our heels in ever since.
We’ve been known as the “other paper on campus”, and the university have never wanted much to do with us. Our print run is entirely financed by advertising we place in the paper, so we don’t rely on funding from UCD or the Students’ Union. This has allowed us over the years to carve out an investigative and confrontational path where necessary against the college administration. A path we very much mean to continue.
It will be for the now bright eyed first year students to learn, that UCD doesn’t care about them. It cares about their fees, and the others means it employs to monetise their time in Belfield. On-campus accommodation prices have increased by 20% since 2013, it now costs €20 to replace your Ucard if it’s lost, the cost of renting a locker has gone up 50% on last year. The library and on-campus Residencies can and regularly do dole out sharp fines to students. It costs €250 to repeat an exam in UCD, the highest in Ireland.
Our lead article this issue showed the extent to which UCD will make deals that hinge on compromising the college’s educational legitimacy in order to attract more international students, because they can charge them inordinately high fees of between €17,000 – €25,000 a year.
To the backdrop of this we see declining funding for student services. The library is chronically underfunded and employs less and less staff each year. The mental health counselling service in UCD isn’t adequately financed and so is constantly oversubscribed during term. There is little specific educational, language or welfare support for international students when they do come to study in Dublin.
These are all the effects of the corporatisation of UCD that began a number of years ago. That corporatisation, with the aim of driving down the costs of providing services and increasing the revenue drawn in from students must be fundamentally questioned and challenged. It is apparent to anyone after their first semester in this college that the current system is not in the best interests of the students.
Precipitating all this has been the consolidation of decision-making power around the office of the President and within the Tierney (administration) building. The college authority, the President, and the Tierney building however – are not UCD. University College Dublin has existed for a near century as a purely educational institution, with the students and the academic staff at its heart. This new corporate UCD is a very recent aberration in the history of the college. The students, the staff, and the College Tribune were all around before this ‘corporate UCD’, and I hope we will be around long after it passes.
I’m aware this is a very heavy editorial to launch off the new volume of the Tribune. But I intend to start as I will continue. As editor of the Tribune I aim to hold this college authority to account to the best of our ability. To investigate, ask awkward questions, and seek to challenge and check the current concentration of power in UCD.
Upon being chosen for this job I got a lot of advice from editors who had gone before me – “don’t be boring”, “don’t be sued”, “don’t fuck it up”, “enjoy the year” etc. But what stayed with me most preparing for this year was an old Vincent Browne quote on the Tribune. He said – “The surest way of knowing whether the College Tribune was doing its job was how much the college ‘authorities’ disliked it, deemed it ‘irresponsible’ and wanted to shut it down. That’s the test. Go to it.”
We intend to.
Jack Power | Editor